Fashion plays a major role in the global economy however it is also one of the most resource-intensive industries in the world. The sad fact is that the human greed to look appealing and wear glamorous clothes has ended up causing harm to the environment. Surveys show that nearly 5 % of all landfill space is consumed by textile waste. Besides, 20% of all freshwater pollution is made by textile treatment and dyeing. According to a recent report, the textile industry emits more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined. And the amount of waste the industry generates, as well as how much water and resources it uses, is increasing. Fabric fragments shed from cheap, disposable clothes, often during washing, are clogging the seas.
As scientists warn that we have only a few years to halt irreversible environmental damage – and fashion continues to be a key contributor – there is an urgent need to focus on Sustainable Fashion.
“Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. It refers to clothing made in ways that value social welfare and worker rights.“
Realizing the need of raising future generations of empathetic, social conscious problem solvers equipped with 21st-century skills I collaborated with four other teachers Ms Shaifu Khurana from Delhi, Mrs Seema Singh from Varanasi, Mrs Deepa Mohan from Tamil Nadu and Mrs Pawan Dubey from Bhopal and started a project “Sustainable Fashion- We Fashion For Zero Waste” for students from age group 10-13 years. We made a team and named our team as Power Puff Techies (as we all were females).
We used Universal Design for Learning coupled with Design Thinking, attitudes and attributes to achieve the desired learning outcomes. The three UDL principles- Multiple means of Representation, Multiple means of Expression, Multiple means of Engagement were incorporated to create a more nurturing, equitable and inclusive space where each child is valued, accepted and respected and gets an equal opportunity of participating in all those activities that suit his/her capability.
SETTING THE STAGE
The stage of learning was set for the learners by introducing each learning engagement as a gamification task for the students as they could understand and relate to the same instantly. The students were taken through an online virtual gallery featuring images and videos of clothing pollution and its environmental impacts.
Virtual tour of garment factory enabled students to make connections and compare theoretical information with practical situations. Guest speaker sessions were arranged to elevate learning experiences of the students without leaving the classroom. Experts from fashion industry, environmentalists and fashion designers were called in the classroom.
A pre survey designed using MS Forms was conducted for collecting data from students to gain information and insights into the topic. Info graphics and graphic organizers were used to show the biodegradability of individual fabrics. With an aim to reach each and every learner online audio-visual book containing detailed information on the topic was designed in One Note. This really helped learners especially slow learners and special need students.
ENGAGING WITH STORY/BLURRING DISCPLINE BOUNDARIES
Interdisciplinary instructions helped in developing knowledge, insights, problem solving skills, self-confidence, self-efficacy, and above all a passion for learning.
In Hindi, students wrote slogans and poems whereas in English they were writing autobiography of garments and made posters. Graphs were plotted in Mathematics using Excel on water consumption data for making various dress materials. Ethical closets were made in Paint 3D and mind maps were drawn as an integration of Science. Students researched on various textile industries as a part of Geography, presenting information on manufacturing process of clothes, factors affecting location of industries, how dyeing affects environment, etc. As part of Computer Science subject, students downloaded the .CSV files related to the topic of research and analyze and visualize the data using Power BI. Students also designed a complete application in Python using Pandas and Matplotlib to analyze and visualize data which they collected as part of the Geography.
They also designed surveys in MS Forms to collect views of people on fast fashion and what steps can be taken to halt this environmentally destructive practice.
DELVING DEEPER – BECOMING A MINDFUL CONSUMER
Technology was no longer scary, a novelty, or clunky for students rather, they started seeing it as a tool for solving real-world problems in unique ways and in levelling the playing field.
With this solid background, they started to “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX” to identify new solutions to the problem statement they had created, and started to look for alternative ways of viewing the problem. A SWOT ANALYSIS was performed by students to analyze their strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats. This helped them to focus on their strengths, minimize weaknesses, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available.
Students were encouraged to be mindful consumers i.e. being aware of their actions and how they impact the planet, their community, and other people. It was amazing to find students using technology and coming up with new and innovative ideas to be a mindful consumer:
- A group of students designed an Organic Cloth Shop in Minecraft selling only green and sustainable clothes. They also used MINECRAFT WITH TRANSLATOR & IMMERSIVE READER to help all type of learners to understand the importance of Sustainable Fashion.
- Students with Spatial Intelligence made posters to show their visual art skill.
- How much did you pay for the clothes in your closet? If you have the receipts, you can calculate this. However, there is a cost hidden behind each dress, pair of jeans, shirt, and sock that goes unnoticed by most people: the cost to the environment… so students with Logical-Mathematical Intelligence made the WARDROBE INVENTORY using MS Excel to keep a check on their purchases. It helped them to discover items which they didn’t remember owning and to find ways to get creative and put together fun outfits.
- A group of students designed a garment tracker app – SMART WARDROBE in Power Apps. The objective behind creating this app was to track the number of garments one is purchasing. The app has three buttons- add, update and delete garments. The user of the app will feed the desired information time to time and will be rewarded a bronze badge if the number of garments is less than 50, silver badge if the number of garments is less than 40 and golden badge if the number of garments is less than 30. This will help the users to do their purchases mindfully. Also, people with disability may benefit from this mobile app which act as a guide to them through their cloth buying activities or experiences.
- Few students who were logic smart came up with an idea of SMART CLOSET. They integrated technology like Micro bit to design a smart closet which will set an alarm once your wardrobe shelf reaches certain limit of clothes. This will certainly help people to shop clothes mindfully.
- Students with Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence reused old clothes for making bags, door mats, scarfs, masks etc.
On the path towards more reasonable consumption, we’ve all had a few slips. It’s easy to claim conscious choices, but much more difficult to follow through.
- Padlet and Flipgrid links were shared with students so that they can confess whenever they buy new clothes without thinking. They were also encouraged to share their old stories of unreasonable shopping.
- To take their learning further, students were encouraged to hard check their wardrobe and recycle/upcycle/donate clothes which they are not using. Many of the students came forward to donate their clothes to the needy people.
- To share their work with a wider community they curated all their resources and links in a Wakelet. Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook campaigns helped in driving mass awareness.
- Last but not the least a petition was filed on CHANGE.ORG. People across the globe are supporting and signing the petition.
- To reach to the masses the learning modules were created in Power App. The app was extensively shared extensively to educate learner community to benefit from. Each module designed was complimented with the level of achievement attained by the user as badges.
- Chatbot was designed in Power Virtual Agents to provide a personalized learning environment. Chatbot helped turned a lecture in a series of messages to make it look like a standardized chat conversation to make the learning process more engaging.
- Students also designed a website and embedded chatbot in it to promote their learning for wider audience around the world.
Thanks to technology which was instrumental in their collaboration with students across the globe to further disseminate the idea of sustainable clothing. Everybody promised to take it further and spread the idea of sustainable fashion like wild fire.
Creating innovative digital solutions to real world problems are not only helping students to build 21st century skills but also making them ready for future jobs which are still unpredictable.
The project-based learning approach coupled with Design Thinking made learning came alive for students and engaged them in solving a real-world problem. Some of the most plausible outcomes were:
- The costly environmental impact of fast fashion not only shocked students but also left them pondering upon this grave issue. Till now they were thinking that they were doing enough to save water and environment but this aspect of detrimental effect on the environment left them dumb founded.
Ranjan said, “Now I keep my clothing in use for longer, shop at thrift or consignment stores and just buy less new stuff!”.
Mahima said, “It’s alarming to find that one garbage truck of clothing and textiles is sent to landfill or burned every second, while just 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing. I will hard check my wardrobe and recycle/upcycle or donate clothes which I am not using.”
Mahesh said, “I am in a habit of calculating environment cost behind every cloth I wear. This discourages me to buy cheap clothes.”
- The project increased the students’ ability to communicate, students learnt how to do research, organize a team, articulate their thoughts, explain and convince. Students learnt to advocate, to defend their ideas, but at the same time they learnt to listen to their opponents and open to the opinions of others.
Meena said, “I am in a better position to leverage my strengths and overcome weaknesses”.
Risha’s(special child) mother said, “My daughter has found her voice. She now practically shouts in the class and easily express her views. Oh god, I get all teary-eyed”.
Mohit said, “It is tempting to sit in our comfort zones, close our eyes, and pretend that everything is fine. But with resilience and perseverance we can make the shift! Be an example for others”.
- The project resulted in students developing deep content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. Students discovered the value of learning by doing. They took the hypothetical and make it real, applying skills and concepts from the classroom to real problems, leading to real-world experience and impact. It’s not just what students learn, but how they learn, that proves invaluable for a lifetime—professionally and personally.
Life-changing. That’s how students described the outcomes of the project.
Reena exclaimed, “The biggest impact that project work had on me was the confidence level that it gave me to go out and take challenges head-on and have the confidence that I have a good chance of succeeding”.
The parents of Alice (special child, name changed) were extremely happy by the performance of their ward and said, ”My son has made a difference in this world and will continue to do so, in his own way”.
- Tackling authentic problems that matter to others helped students develop perseverance, empathy, and self-efficacy while also gaining valuable skills. Students are now more sophisticated, well-rounded, globally aware, and prepared for whatever the world throws at them.
Students learnt to work in a community, thereby taking on social responsibilities. It was amazing to find students especially special need students to take responsibility, or ownership, for their learning, their self-esteem soars.
Neena remarked, “I never thought that I have capabilities to create something and I can also think innovatively. Now, I am confident that I can also contribute in bringing change to this world.”
Surmaya excitedly expressed, “I have learnt more than just finding answers, it allowed me to expand my mind and think beyond what I normally would”.
Kanika said, “I have learnt to fail happily. Earlier I was scared of failing but now I have learnt to switch approaches when my initial attempt fails to work”.
Mohan said, “I Have learnt to overcome biases and preconceived notions by looking at the problem from a fresh view point and always developing at least two or more alternative solutions to your problem”.
I still remember the sayings of one of our guest speakers, “If you want to shoot birds, shoot where they are going. If you shoot where they are, you will miss them. Learners learn by creating knowledge not by absorbing it.”
We as teachers are happy that our students are adopting growth mind set and taking a leap from seekers of knowledge to creators and innovators and informed citizens who will definitely make this world a happier place in coming years.
We all love fashion. But we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet. We demand radical, revolutionary change which is possible only if each and every one of us does our bit willingly and happily.
This is our dream…